October 26th, 2020

Eddy Sidani

Content Marketing Specialist, SponsorPulse

SponsorPulse Content Series | Top 10 Most Marketable Sport Teams in the world

Diving deeper into the SportsPro 50 Most Marketable Properties list, we created a list of the top 10 most marketable sport teams in the world and investigated the factors behind their success. Did your team make the list? Read more below to find out!

With the release of the SportsPro 50 Most Marketable (SP50MM) Properties 2 weeks in our past, we decided to create a content series that offers discussion surrounding different themes that we found present within the list. We will investigate various topics such as the top global female properties, top global events and competitions, the rise of e-sports, and more. To begin this campaign, we thought it be best to discuss the topic of most debate surrounding the original SP50MM list: the world’s top 10 most marketable sport teams.

After compiling a list of the most marketable sport properties in the world using the SponsorPulse Opportunity Score (our universal, insight-driven currency), it is no surprise to see that some of the most successful teams in the world also present some of the greatest sponsorship opportunities. The following is a list of the top 10 most marketable sports teams according to the SP50MM:

SponsorPulse Content Series | Top 10 Most Marketable Sport Teams in the world

The Beautiful Game

Without surprise, the most marketable sport teams in the world are some of the largest and most successful soccer clubs. In fact, 9 of the 10 teams featured in this list are soccer properties. The only non-soccer team that makes this list is the Los Angeles Lakers (5) of the National Basketball Association (NBA). While there is no doubting that soccer is indeed the world’s most popular sport, it is still interesting to see that it overwhelmingly dominates the list of the most marketable sport teams. Spanish giants Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona top the list as they achieved the greatest Opportunity Scores of all sport teams globally; 34 and 33 respectively. English soccer clubs had the most spots in the top 10, as four of their teams made the list (Manchester United F.C., Liverpool F.C., Manchester City F.C., Chelsea F.C.). Lastly, the three most popular Italian soccer clubs round out the list with Juventus F.C., Inter Milan and A.C. Milan all reaching Opportunity Scores ranging from 22 to 24.

Let’s dive a bit deeper to better understand what makes these clubs so marketable.

Success on the pitch = Success off the pitch

NEWS FLASH: Successful teams are much easier to market than non-successful teams.

Okay, while that may not necessarily be news to anybody reading this article, there is in fact a reason to why this is the case. To better understand why team success is important to sales, we must think of the identity of the consumer (in this case, a sport fan). According to sport consumer behavior literature, sport fans are much more likely to build psychological connections with teams that have higher winning-percentages and histories of success than less successful teams. Although there are many other things that may lead to the inception of fandom (e.g. a specific player on the team, parental figures, geography, what the team represents, etc.) one of the most popular factors is team success. To spare the university lecture, imagine fair-weather fans. Across the world, teams who begin to generate records of success will develop a new fan base that will want to experience and share the winning culture while it lasts. If the team begins to lose and is no longer considered “successful”, they will almost assuredly (and quickly) lose their temperate fan base. A winning formula on the field will result in higher ticket sales, higher merchandise sales, and other forms of team-related revenue (i.e. broadcast rights, etc.).

To this point, let us discuss the success-levels of the teams on our top 10 list. Each of the teams listed above could arguably be considered some of the most successful in their respective competitions. Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona are two of the most championed teams in soccer history, regularly winning La Liga and other Spanish domestic competitions; they also often find themselves challenging for the UEFA Champions League. Manchester United F.C., Liverpool F.C. Manchester City F.C. and Chelsea F.C. are four of the largest international soccer clubs in the world and have each enjoyed periods of both domestic and international domination, especially considering Liverpool F.C.’s most recent domestic and European championships. This year the Los Angeles Lakers won their 17th NBA Championship, tying them for the most of any franchise along with the Boston Celtics. Lastly, Juventus F.C. has completely dominated the Italian Serie A over the past decade and made regular appearances in the later stages of the UEFA Champions League, while Inter Milan and A.C. Milan both have storied histories of championships that make them some of the most successful clubs in the world.

As stated earlier – success on the pitch will result in success off the pitch.

The power of a celebrity athlete

Another no-brainer for sport marketing managers – having an international icon on the roster will make your team more marketable. While these superstars will likely also help increase a team’s winning percentage, they will most definitely draw fans of their person toward their respective club or team. For example, let us consider the most marketable athlete in the world according to SportsPro's 50 Most Marketable Athletes powered by Nielsen, Cristiano Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest soccer player of his generation. As one can imagine, many fans have attempted to emulate his style both on and off the pitch. Like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the only athletes in the world who can make a hairstyle or fashion trend popular through association. Not only has he played for (and had significant roles in) three of the teams that make up our top 10 list, but his signing with Juventus F.C. made the Serie A giants the most marketable sport team in Portugal for the first time in its existence with a SponsorPulse Opportunity Score of 47.

Lionel Messi, the Argentinian responsible for the world’s reluctance in anointing Ronaldo as the greatest player on the field today, also brings his team a great deal of marketability. Lionel Messi jerseys can likely be seen in the stands of every professional game played around the world, regardless of who is competing. This player (who ranks second in the SP50MM Athletes list) is widely regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the game, and has a large group of devoted supporters who have threatened to stop supporting FC Barcelona if Messi signs for another club in the future. With the chances of this being more likely as time goes on, it will be interesting to see if the Catalan club can retain its spot at the top of our list without their current captain. Like Ronaldo, Messi is responsible for FC Barcelona being ranked as the number one sport team in Argentina, with an Opportunity Score of 64.

Another celebrity athlete who has helped their respective team crack this list is LeBron James. The American superstar has recently made history by bringing the Los Angeles Lakers back to the top by leading them to a 17th NBA Championship. James was ranked as the third most marketable athlete by Nielsen and is one of the major reasons that the Lakers make our list of the top 10 most marketable franchises with a SponsorPulse Opportunity Score of 25.

The Team vs the League

In some cases in the SP50MM Properties list, the teams rank higher than the leagues or competitions that they play in. The first example of this can be seen in Real Madrid C.F. and FC Barcelona as they both rank as the 4th and 5th most marketable sport properties respectively, while La Liga ranks as the 17th. For brands looking to partner with a Spanish soccer property, they should carefully reflect on the initial purpose of their sponsorship. Partnering with La Liga may provide unique opportunity to connect with the Spanish consumer base, however becoming a sponsor of one of the two aforementioned clubs may provide exposure to markets where La Liga is not necessarily the most popular.

Another team that is more marketable than the league it plays in is Manchester United F.C. of the English Premier League (EPL). Manchester United F.C. ranks as the 9th most marketable sport property in the world, with a SponsorPulse Opportunity Score of 29. Right behind it as the 10th most marketable sport property is the EPL with an Opportunity Score of 28. What separates the two is the fact that Manchester United F.C. has greater engagement levels and impact metrics (i.e. people are more likely to purchase from or be more favorable of a brand that sponsors MUFC than the EPL).

Moving towards the Italian landscape, all three of the sport teams that make our top 10 list are more marketable than the Italian Serie A itself. The league, which has a SponsorPulse Opportunity Score of 21, ranks 24th overall in the SP50MM Properties list. Juventus F.C., Inter Milan, and A.C. Milan each have a deep-rooted history in international competitions, and are regularly regarded as some of the most influential clubs in the sport of soccer. What places the two Milanese clubs ahead of the Italian based competition is their overall popularity in Asian markets.

Building a fanbase abroad

In the 21st century, sport marketing managers have recognized the importance of strategic partnerships and sponsorship marketing to help build awareness and affinity of their brands. Properties and brands understand the opportunities present when expanding to new international markets, and that although there may be significant uncertainty when trying to build a foreign consumer base, the rewards can be well worth the risks. For example, Inter Milan has made valiant efforts to expand their consumer base in China over the past few years (including a transfer of majority ownership to Chinese investment) resulting in them now being the most marketable team in the Asian market. The Milanese club received a SponsorPulse Opportunity Score of 38, 4 points ahead of Spanish giants FC Barcelona, making them the sport team that presents the greatest opportunity to connect with Chinese consumers. Their presence in China is part of the reason why they were able to crack the list of the top 10 most marketable sport teams globally.

Other Notable Mentions

Although we only created a list of the top 10 most marketable sport teams from the inaugural SP50MM Properties list, there are some other notable mentions that just missed the cut. The following is a list of teams that would have ranked 11th-15th if our list included more rankings:

To see more details on these and other sport teams on the SportsPro 50 Most Marketable Properties list, visit 50mm.sportspromedia.com/properties!

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